I remember what it was like. The year was 1999 when my best friend, who also happened to be a recruitment consultant, took me to a fine Chinese restaurant in Sydney. He had just successfully placed me in a new company and it was his mother’s b’day. So the three of us went for a little celebration.
When I entered this palatial eatery, I was awestruck by all the fish tanks there. Almost two whole walls were made from just aquariums. I devoted a moment to take it all in. There they were, the lobsters, crabs, fish, shrimps, oysters, and whatnot. (Thankfully, they had veggies and rice for me.)
“Wow!” I said to David, my friend. “This restaurant is done up so well. Love the aquariums and all.”
He smiled lovingly and said, “This is food. People can pick and choose and precisely the one they select is the one that will be cooked for them.”
I thought David was joking but he insisted he wasn’t.
Just then a staff member came, dipped a fishnet with a long handle and took a lobster out. Coming from a small town in North India, I had lived at least 2000 kilometers away from the ocean. So forget seafood, I had never seen the sea. I felt sorry for those merry marine creatures who would go from a tank to an intestine in a matter of minutes. The lobsters, David told me, tasted best if they were boiled alive. Boil them alive? Being a vegetarian, the thought was unimaginable. Then again, when did I ever think that one day I would write a tribute to a lobster, well, sort of. But, here we are. (This post could easily be a eulogy at the funeral of a lobster.)
What would you say you currently find uncomfortable in your life? Is there anything on the personal or professional front that’s causing you discomfort? Nothing? Hey, that’s not good news.
While I am not suggesting that you poke a wasp to see if it stings you, I do feel there is merit in contemplating if you are trapped in the confines of a comfort zone. And what better way to do so than admiring the glamorous life of a gorgeous lobster, right?
In the words of Rabbi, Dr. Abraham Twerski:
The lobster’s a soft mushy animal that lives inside of a rigid shell. That rigid shell does not expand.
As the lobster grows, that shell becomes very confining, and the lobster feels itself under pressure and uncomfortable. It goes under a rock formation to protect itself from predatory fish, casts off the shell, and produces a new one. Well, eventually, that shell becomes very uncomfortable as it grows. Back under the rocks. The lobster repeats this numerous times.
The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable. Now, if lobsters had doctors, they would never grow because as soon as the lobster feels uncomfortable, goes to the doctor, gets a Valium, gets a Percocet, feels fine, never casts off its shell.
I think that we have to realize that times of stress are also times that are signals for growth, and if we use adversity properly, we can grow through adversity.
But we hate adversity. Forget embracing discomfort, the very thought of slightest inconvenience irks the best of us. Indeed, if anyone asked me to summarize the gist of all human endeavors, I’d say: maximize pleasure and avoid pain.
Whether it’s the bliss from spiritual pursuits or from the worldly ones, we seem to be forever working towards more comforts, more pleasure. Those desirable outcomes make us feel we are in control, we are liberated, and a whole heap of other good things. We don’t want any pain. But the pain of a decayed tooth, for example, does not go away by taking painkillers. You have to allow the dentist to treat you, you have to go to the root (at times, literally) to face the pain to get rid of it. For, sometimes the only way to ease pain is to go through it. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s like building endurance in a gym. No matter what your workout, if you don’t take yourself to the point of failure, you don’t grow. It’s those micro muscular tears, caused by the stress on the muscle, that eventually foster strength and growth (during the process of cellular repair). And so it is with every other aspect of our lives. If we don’t challenge ourselves, if we don’t force ourselves to come out of our shell, if we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we’ll never grow.
Facing the right amount of resistance at the right time is essential to growth.
One evening, Mulla Nasruddin was sitting at the tobacco shop, gossiping with the shopkeeper, when Mulla’s son came strolling by carrying a chicken. “Son, where did you get that chicken?” Nasruddin asked him.
“Stole it,” the boy answered.
“That’s my boy!” Mulla put his arm around his son, and said proudly to the shopkeeper. “He may steal, but he doesn’t lie!” 1
And so it is with growth. You may choose to be complacent, to enjoy the addiction of a comfort zone as long as you are being honest with yourself and making a conscious choice. It’s perfectly okay if you don’t wish to grow but just remember, you then also lose the right to complain or dream.
Besides, who is to guarantee that the poor lobster, even after undergoing all the pain and trauma, won’t get chucked in boiling water so it may end up on someone’s dinner plate? No respite.
Having said that, just because we are unsure of the outcome is not strong enough a reason to not give it our absolute best. Complacency is not an option (unless you work for certain govt. departments, in which case it may actually be rewarded with lavish meals including aquatic crustaceans).
Go on then, what are you waiting for? Be the fabulous lobster you always wanted to be. Meanwhile, I’ll boil the pot.
P.S. Join me live on 23-Sep, Sat, 9:30 AM IST. Details on os.me/live.
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